Such work must naturally be done privately - 'under four eyes', as Buchman sometimes described it. Often it would require the 'life- changer' first being honest about problems which had been, or still were on occasion, those which he found most difficult in his own life, as this gave the other the courage to be open about fundamental problems in turn. Often Buchman found that the problems which most troubled people were sexual, and he did not hesitate to enter this area, into which few others but Freud and himself - from profoundly different angles - dared at that time to venture. As far back as Penn State, he had seen sexual indulgence as one of the most common barriers to a full experience of Christ. It was self-evidently one of the places where the human will was most deeply rooted, and where clarity of decision was most necessary if a person was to become free and able to bring similar freedom to others. Buchman realised that if he were to help others, he must live a pure life himself. 'I find I cannot listen to the slightest suggestive. I need to be antiseptic. I cannot play on the edge. 0 Lord, I want to give myself to the maximum,' he once noted. The act of giving himself more fully to God seems to have led to a sharper battle in his own heart. 'The temptations in an intensified form,' he noted a day later, 'are the preparation for greater victory. They give greater sympathy for the sinner.'
Buchman had learnt that temptation, of whatever kind, was best resisted at its earliest stage. It was easier, he sometimes said, to divert a small stream than to dam a river. He defined the progression of temptation as 'the look, the thought, the fascination, the fall', and said that the time to deal with it was at the thought - 'Tackle temptation well upstream.' This was not a new idea. Thomas a Kempis, whose writings he would not likely have encountered at Mount Airy but whose Imitation of Christ went with him everywhere during his adult life, describes the same progression. 'The enemy is more easily overcome,' writes a Kempis, 'if he be not suffered in any wise to enter the door of our hearts but be resisted without the gate at his first knock.'9
A further necessary element in becoming a free personality, Buchman believed, was to be prepared to make restitution, to put right as far as possible any wrong done. Hence, for example, his own letters from Kuling to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and to the man to whom he had told a lie - even though, in the latter case, it was the seemingly trivial matter of having pretended to have read a book of which he had only read reviews.10 Sometimes such restitutions might involve public confession, but only when it affected the public. 'If your sin is a public one, like that of the leader in a public quarrel, you ought to confess it. If it is sincere, people will sympathise with you.'